Patriots, A Thorn In Pittsburgh's Side

What do they say after an archrival defeats you on the field of play? They say what the Steelers are saying after a lopsided loss to the Patriots on Sunday. New England is a perennial thorn in Pittsburgh's side during the playoffs, and now seem firmly entrenched as Mike Tomlin's personal nemesis. Two of Tomlin's worst defeats as head coach came from New England.

Worst Loss Since... The Last Patriots Game

The Steelers were licking their wounds, figuratively and literally, after one of the worst defeats in coach Mike Tomlin's coaching tenure.

The final score of 39-26 in the loss to the New England Patriots Sunday night was worse than it looked after they trailed 23-3 entering the fourth quarter. That 13-point loss was the third worst under Tomlin, most since a 31-14 loss at Tennessee in 2008. The worst? At New England in 2007, 34-13.

"We stunk offensively," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We flat-out stunk. And I stunk. It wasn't fun."

The Steelers played without both starting defensive ends again, Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, and with a new left side of their offensive line with Max Starks on injured reserve and guard Chris Kemoeatu out with a sprained knee and ankle. During the game, they lost Hines Ward to a concussion and linebacker Lawrence Timmons to a hip pointer.

Injuries may be catching up with the Steelers, who also lost starting tackle Willie Colon before the season.

"The standard really doesn't change no matter who's out there," safety Troy Polamalu said.

Yet Pittsburgh remains tied for first place in the AFC North at 6-3 with Baltimore, although the Ravens beat them in Heinz Field. The Steelers also blew a chance to stake a claim for a top seed in the playoffs by losing to the 7-2 Patriots. They also have a game coming up at home Dec. 19 against the 7-2 New York Jets.

But Oakland right now has to be on their minds. The Raiders upset them in Heinz Field last season and come in with a much better record this Sunday at 5-4.

"We have to prepare ourselves for what's coming up next and be ready if a team wants to attack us the way New England did," linebacker James Farrior said.

Reed Takes The Fall

Kicker Jeff Reed is looking for a new job and with his resume it should take little time for him to find one after the Pittsburgh Steelers released him in a stunning move on Tuesday.

The Steelers signed Shaun Suisham to replace Reed.

Reed, the second-leading scorer in franchise history with 919 points behind only Gary Anderson, missed a 26-yard field goal against New England in a 39-26 Pittsburgh loss Sunday after his right plant foot skidded on the grass. The Steelers trailed 17-3 at the time.

It may not have been that miss but combined with Reed's comments after the game in which he ripped the Heinz Field surface and Steelers fans.

"If you're not perfect in this city, man, then you're going to hear about it," Reed said. "It's been like that for nine years, and why would they stop now?"

They will stop -- because Reed is gone.

If he clears waivers by 4 p.m. Wednesday, he can sign elsewhere. As the franchise player, the Steelers are responsible to pay Reed the remaining $1.16 million left on Reed's $2.814 million contract this season. They Steelers must pay him whether he signs elsewhere or not, and no matter for how much he might receive elsewhere.

Reed had the best field goal percentage over the previous three seasons of any kicker in the NFL despite kicking in tricky Heinz Field with its rough grass, open end zone and weather conditions.

"It's probably just more an accumulation of where we are," Tomlin said, refusing to allow that his decision also was based on Reed's various negative comments, his unhappiness with not getting a long-term contract this year and his two minor tiffs with the law over the past several years.

"Of course, like I said earlier, this guy's had a great deal of success. It's not a decision that comes easily. The kicking position is one that bears special consideration. It's unlike other positions where you can simply bench someone and go to their backup. There's only one kicker on the football team, so you don't take these decisions lightly."


--The Steelers not only gave up their first touchdown this season on an opponent's opening drive, they also allowed their first TD on an opponent's first drive of the second half. Previously, they had allowed two field goals on opening drives in eight games, and two field goals on opening drives of second halves.

--In their nine games, the Steelers have failed to score a touchdown in the first half of three games and have scored only three points in the first half in three games.

--Once regarded as a prime-time team, the Steelers are 0-2 on Sunday night this season and 14-16 all time playing at night on Sunday.

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